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Lawmakers say college site discussion premature

March 07, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two Eastern Panhandle lawmakers said Monday it is premature to suggest that Martinsburg be the site of a new community college in Berkeley County.

If a higher education reform bill passes the West Virginia Legislature, it will be up to a newly created board of governors at Shepherd College to determine where a community college will be located in the county, Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, and Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said.

It will be up to the board of governors to find a site that "is in the best interest of the people of the Eastern Panhandle, not just one area," Unger said, adding, "I don't want us all jumping to conclusions where this community college will go."

Doyle agreed, saying talk of locating a community college in Martinsburg has "ruffled feathers" among other lawmakers in Charleston, the state capital. At the very least, people in Martinsburg should "let the ink dry" on the bill before discussing a site, said Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson.

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The Martinsburg City Council on Saturday passed a resolution to form a partnership with Shepherd College's Community and Technical College to bring the school to the town.

City leaders and Berkeley County business executives have stressed the need for a community college in the Martinsburg area to offer much needed work force development programs.

Martinsburg Mayor Earnest L. Sparks said the city is "not trying to cram anything down anyone's throat," but the Dunn building at the Blue Ridge Outlet complex on Stephens Street would be an idea location for the community college.

The Dunn building has 227,000 square-feet of space, more than 900 parking spaces and two cafeterias, Sparks said.

"It certainly makes sense to myself and a lot of other people in this community that is where it would go," Sparks said.

City Council member Richard Yauger said two Shepherd College representatives who attended Saturday's council meeting did not mention that the location of the community college would be up to a separate board. The two representatives, Shepherd College counselor Bill Lucht and Peter Checkovich, provost of Shepherd's community college, could not be reached for comment.

Shepherd College spokeswoman Valerie Owens said she spoke to Dunlop Monday, and the college president agreed it was "kind of premature" to talk about a school site.

Blue Ridge Outlets, once a thriving shopping area, has dwindled from more than 50 stores to two. Blue Ridge Outlets spokesman Moncure Chatfield-Taylor could not be reached for comment.

The bill that would bring the community college to Martinsburg is part of a complex higher education reform bill pending before lawmakers. The bill passed the Senate on Friday and is now in the House of Delegates.

A largely unchanged version passed the House Education Committee Monday and now heads to the House Finance Committee.

"It's very complex and complicated, and when it's that complex, it's that much harder to get them understandable," Doyle said.

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